Wednesday, March 21, 2007

SISKEL AND EBERT'S CLASH OF THE TITANS


And then, just when they’re needed most, in swoopeth the skinny Jewish guy and the portly Catholic guy to save the day and serve up the laughs like a veteran comedy team straight off the vaudeville boards. At first things don’t look too rosy on the set of Siskel and Ebert and the Movies-- the pair are desultorily making their way through a series on promos to be sent out to their syndicated stations for some upcoming shows. Roger speeds through the copy too quickly, and Gene gets prickly. Gene flubs the name of the show, and Roger’s stack gets ready to blow. And then, as if by magic, the (probably) real tension gives way to ribald, good-natured (and, again, eye-poppingly profane) trash talk, a wild Ping-Pong match of F-bombs and religious insults that breezily illustrates just how these two, whose legendary prickliness toward each other was reportedly not entirely an act, managed to learn to get along with each other while introducing a form of film criticism to a generation of TV-watching movie geeks. (It’ll also make you believe without a shadow of a doubt that Ebert is indeed the man who wrote Beyond the Valley of the Dolls!) Forgive me if you've seen this before, but after the whole Huckabees explosion it seemed like a good time to see some on-set sparring that was meant to be funny... Just think what Ray Harryhausen could have done with this clash!

It’s been a couple of months since Jim Emerson passed along an update on Roger Ebert’s condition, but the most recent word is that he is recovering, although through “a staged, multi-phased approach” that is taking longer, clearly, than Mr. Ebert would like. But as he put it in his letter, “To borrow from the Chicago Bears, we tried for the long pass, but now we're going for a series of shorter passes until we score a touchdown… Let me just say that I hope to return soon. As Faulkner says: ‘We shall not merely prevail, we shall endure.’” Speaking for all of us who watched his show from its earliest days and now eagerly await his return, we wish you well, Mr. Ebert.

(Hey, Kim, any tape like this of you and Roeper we can look forward to?)

(Thanks, Sal!)

7 comments:

Jeremy Mathews said...

Thanks, Dennis. I've seen this before, but it was a nice refreshing laugh after the previous, rather disturbing spectacle.

Dennis Cozzalio said...

That was exactly how I felt, Jeremy. And thanks for the link on your fine site as well.

Damian said...

I'd actually seen that before but it was great to see it again. Like Jeremy said, it was a welcome laugh after the David O. Russell debacle. Here's a conflict that's actually funny and entertaining, not just nasty and uncomfortable.

Plus, there's the knowledge that these two men did move past this clash and any other occasional disagreements they might have had. Whatever else happened, Siskel and Ebert (man, I haven't said those two names together in long time; that felt good) had mutual respect and affection. They were colleagues, partners and, as I believe Ebert wrote in his rather moving tribute to Gene, they "eventually became friends."

Hope we get to see Roger back on the balcony soon.

Damian said...

And thanks for the link on your fine site as well.

Now if I can just get Dennis to link me to his. Hmmmmmmmm.....

Dennis Cozzalio said...

Damian! It's there, man! What are you complaining about?! ;)

Sorry. I should've been quicker to get a fellow Oregonian up there! By the way, my good friend PSaga lives in Corvallis as well. She's well acquainted with Paul and the Darkside. Maybe someday she'll discover your video store too!

Moviezzz said...

Thanks for posting this (and your excellent Russell story).

I never get tired of watching this clip. I miss seeing them together so much.

I once saw a taping of a special they did and they were almost as entertaining as in this clip. Doing the promos, Siskel redid it many times trying to figure out the best way to say the time.

He said "Tune in at 11" Then he thought "Wait, they won't know which 11 it is". Then he did "Tune in at 11 at night."

He did it again. "Tune in at 11 pm" and then he did it I think a couple more times until he was happy with I think it was "Tune in Saturday night at 11".

Anonymous said...

It's a fantastic clip and I'm glad to have seen it again. Thanks, Dennis, for linking to my site.